Traveling With A Service Dog

Service animals can help people with disabilities to be more mobile. Trains, planes, buses, and even cruise ships can carry people and their service animals to routine destinations or on to exotic adventures. The following traveler-tested tips focus on dogs, but many of the suggestions apply to other species as well.

Your trip might not be the most convenient time to discover that Mr. Pooch is nauseated on trains or is so fascinated by seagulls that he won't work for you on the beach. Some service dogs adapt well to new environments, schedules, food and water; others become distracted or stressed. This can affect their ability to work, their needs to eliminate, their appetites, and their dispositions. The more you can introduce your dog to the conditions he will experience during the trip, the better you will be able to anticipate his reactions and plan for his comfort.

Utilize these quick links to quickly scroll to the content that interests you:
Be Prepared before You Depart
Things Your Service Dog Needs to Know in order to Travel
Be Able to Prove That Your Dog Is Yours
Considerations for Traveling within the United States
Considerations for Traveling Outside of the United States
Rest & Relaxation Tips for Traveling with your Service Dog
Service Animals and Service Dogs on Air Carriers
How to Respond to Service Animal/Dog Issues
Discrimination Complaints

Be Prepared before You Depart

  1. Find out the conditions your dog will experience, such as:
          • Climate
          • Crowds
          • Typical noises, types of animals you may encounter
          • The cultural attitudes toward service animals
  2. Find out what laws apply to your dog and to you as a service animal handler during travel and at your destination. Include laws that affect stewardship, like leash laws or muzzle requirements in foreign countries. Your complete understanding of your rights and responsibilities will help you plan your itinerary.
  3. Make 3 copies of all necessary documentation. Keep one with you at all times. Keep one copy where you stay. Keep one copy with someone at home who can be contacted at any time to fax it to you should you need another copy while traveling.
  4. Always have a current record of the dog's vaccination history, in case of incident.
  5. Have a "Plan B" – an alternative way to get the disability-related help you need in case your dog becomes unable to work during the trip. Pre-planning your options for coping will save you time and additional stress in the event of an emergency. Keep a list of important phone numbers so you can quickly make necessary contacts.
  6. Talk to Your Veterinarian
    • Find out if there are any diseases or parasites that your dog might be exposed to while traveling, and discuss with your veterinarian what you can do to protect your dog.

    • Time zone changes can be as hard on dogs as they are on some people. Discuss whether to alter your dog's feeding and elimination times to adjust his schedule to fit the time zones you will visit. Keep in mind the activity schedule you will have so your dog can be on a schedule that is comfortable for him.

    • Get advice about any different nutritional needs your dog might have while traveling, especially if there will be a change in the amount or pattern of work the dog will be doing.

    • Ask how long to withhold food and water before and during traveling, to reduce the dog's need to eliminate.

    • Discuss whether you need to change the schedule or dosage of any medications your dog needs. Obtain an adequate amount of the medication, and a prescription for the medication in case your supply is damaged or lost.

    • Find out if you can depend on the safety of the water supply during your trip, or if you should give your dog bottled water.

    • Discuss how to recognize and treat motion sickness (and altitude sickness if you will be in high altitudes) in your dog.

    • Get a referral for veterinary services at your destination.

Things Your Service Dog Needs to Know in order to Travel

You are responsible for the care and appropriate behavior of your service dog. The better prepared your dog is, the easier the trip will be for both of you. Teach your dog:

  • How to tolerate being handled by a stranger. If you will be going through security or importation checkpoints, your dog might have to be examined or checked with a metal-detector wand.
  • How to travel on the types of transportation you will use. If possible, get your dog accustomed to these prior to departure. Include elevators, escalators, lifts, as well as vehicles.
  • How to eliminate in a variety of situations. The dog that can toilet only on grass might have a difficult time if the only available site is concrete, or if you are stuck indoors and cannot get the dog outside. Teaching your dog to eliminate on command, and to perform in a variety of situations will help you overcome any obstacles to meeting your dog's toileting needs. Teaching your dog to eliminate on newspapers and into a super-absorbent diaper will give you options to use no matter where you are. Place a plastic bag under the newspapers to protect the surface below and make cleanup easier.

Be Able to Prove That Your Dog Is Yours

  • Carry 2 recent photographs that show your dog's face and body, one close-up and another with the dog standing next to a common object (like a chair) for scale.
  • Carry a written detailed description of your dog: age, weight, height at shoulders, identifying markings, license number, and contact information for the licensing agency.
  • Keep a tag on your dog's collar that gives some identifying information, such as, "Service Dog" and your last name and a phone number. Make sure this is a phone you have access to or is one where someone will notify you immediately in the event that your dog is separated from you and found.
  • If you choose to have an electronic chip planted in your dog, make sure it can be read by any type of scanner and that scanners are routinely used where you are going. If your dog is tattooed, carry that number and the contact information for the registration agency.

Considerations for Traveling within the United States

Generally, federal laws protect people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals. No deposits or extra fees may be charged for the service animal. ID or "certification" of the service dog's training, or of the person's disability, cannot be required for access on buses, trains, planes, taxis, rental cars, US-registered cruise ships or to places open to the public. However, it is a good idea to have at least a current vaccine record and some identification for the dog in case of an emergency.

Considerations for Traveling Outside of the United States

Well before your trip, contact the Embassy or Consulate of the country you will visit. Request the regulations that apply to you and your service animal, and the requirements you will have to meet for entry and access. Include all ports of call for cruises or tours. Be aware that some requirements must be completed months before you plan to depart, and some countries do not accept service animals at all.

  • Get a letter from your veterinarian that states your dog is in good health and up to date on all vaccinations, and another letter from your healthcare provider regarding your disability and your dog's role.
  • Contact the Embassy or Consulate for a translation of those letters in the language of the area you will visit, on official letterhead and signed by an official. You might have to submit a health certificate for your service animal to obtain this translation. If your original documents are needed by the Embassy, keep copies and ask that the originals be returned to you with the translation. This process might take several weeks. Prepare copies as described previously.
  • Keep a record of all officials contacted, in case you have to get back in touch with them during your trip.
  • Learn a few key phrases in the language of the area. Include a phrase that describes your dog's role, such as "My dog is trained to help me with my disability."
  • Respect the laws and customs of the area. Find out how service dogs are regarded in the areas you will visit. If you will be visiting an area that does not have animal control laws, be prepared for the types of loose animals you might encounter.

Rest & Relaxation Tips for Traveling with your Service Dog

Identify the areas available for your dog to exercise and play. Make sure they are safe for him (no glass, spoiled food, etc.).
Do not expect hotel, transportation or employees of other public entities to walk or exercise your dog. US federal law is clear that the service dog's care and behavior is the responsibility of the person with the disability. Many places have policies that do not permit employees to handle service animals because of liability issues. If you will need help, find out if there is a volunteer service or dog care service that you can access where you will be visiting.

  • Allow plenty of time for a walk and exercise prior to travel.
  • Provide adequate rest periods for your dog to be off duty.
  • Your Service Dog's Suitcase
    Traveling with a dog can be like traveling with a child – you can pack light or take everything but the kitchen sink. Choose the items that will help make your trip relaxed and enjoyable!
  • Dog bowls. In a pinch, one will do for both food and water. Check out the different kinds (metal, plastic, lidded, collapsible fabric, etc.) for the one that will travel best. Disposables will eliminate the need to wash dishes.
    Purchase dog food where you visit to save luggage space. If you bring your own dry food, packaging it in single portions in plastic bags will make serving easier. The bags can be used for "scooping" later. If you use canned food, remember the can opener.
  • One or two toys that your dog likes. Make sure at least one is not a "noise-maker" so your dog can enjoy himself without annoying others.
  • A supply of favorite treats.
  • Grooming items: 
             • Nail clippers
             • Brush
             • Comb
             • Scissors
             • Shampoo
             • Equipment:
                      - Leashes
                      - Collars
                      - Backpack
             • Sweater. 
             • Raincoat. 
             • Booties
             • Plastic bags for "scooping" or placing under newspapers used for toileting
             • Water bottle if you will be in places with no water supply
             • Favorite travel pad or blanket to sleep on
             • Small first aid kit

Service Animals and Service Dogs on Air Carriers

To address the most common concerns about air travel with service animals/service dogs, this article includes technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation, with cites.

To assist travelers with disabilities, the Department of Transportation has started a toll-free hotline. The purpose of this hotline is to:

         • Give general information about the rights of air travelers with disabilities. 
         • Mail printed consumer information. 
         • Help in disability concerns that need information as soon as possible.

Contact the Department of Transportation at 800-778-4838 (voice) or 800-455-9880 (TTY), 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Eastern time, 7 days a week.

An Overview of the Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA; 49 U.S.C. 41705) is the federal law that protects people with disabilities from discriminatory practices by commercial airlines (carrier). It protects individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals on air carriers and when accessing services owned or operated by air carriers. According to the Air Carrier Act,

"Individual with a disability means any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that, on a permanent or temporary basis, substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment."

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) enforces the ACAA. This law does not apply to foreign air carriers or to airport facilities outside the US, its territories, possessions and commonwealths, nor does it apply to airport services such as restaurants, newsstands and other airport concessions that are not government or carrier owned or operated. These public accommodations are covered by Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Likewise, airports are often not owned by airlines, but are state or local government owned and are covered by Title II of the ADA. When the ACAA conflicts with state or local laws, or with individual air carrier policy, whichever law or policy grants greater protection (that is, is less restrictive) to the person with the disability is the law or policy that will take precedence.

Amendments to the ACAA further clarify the provisions of that law. As with other civil rights laws, both the carrier and the person with the disability have rights and obligations for conduct. In general, a carrier cannot, because a person has a disability, discriminate against that person:

  • In the provision of air transportation.
  • Require the person to accept special services not requested by the passenger.
  • Exclude a qualified individual with a disability from, or deny the person the benefit of, any air transportation or related services that are available to other persons.
  • Take any action adverse to an individual's rights that are protected by the ACAA (14 CFR 382 §382.7).

This doesn't mean that an air carrier cannot ever deny services to a person with a disability. Air carriers may refuse to provide transportation to any passenger on the basis of safety, and may refuse to provide transportation to any passenger whose carriage would violate the Federal Aviation Regulations. For example, if a person with a disability is belligerent and threatens air carrier personnel with violence, that person may be denied services if such behavior by anyone violates federal regulations.

The ACAA requires carriers to modify policies, practices or facilities as needed to ensure nondiscrimination, consistent with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Carriers are not required to make modifications that would create an undue burden or would fundamentally alter their programs (14 CFR 382 §382.7). Carriers must also ensure that their contractors (including US travel agents) comply with nondiscrimination provisions in those activities carried out on behalf of the carriers, and that the contractors comply with directives issued by carrier complaint resolution officials (CROs) under section 382.65 (14 CFR 382 §382.9). Air carriers are required to have CROs. Air carrier personnel that deal with the public must, within 60 days of assuming job duties, receive training about the provisions of the ACAA that relate to air travel by people with disabilities. Training tailored to the employees' functions must also be provided to contractors who deal directly with the traveling public at airports (14 CFR 382 §382.65).

The ACAA and Service Animals/Service Dogs

While the ACAA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a wide range of airline activities such as ticket sales and onboard accessibility, the following information will focus on the provisions that affect travel with a service animal/service dog.

If special information concerning the transportation of animals outside the continental US is either required to be, or is, provided by the carrier, the information shall be provided to all passengers traveling with animals outside the continental US with the carrier, including those traveling with service animals/service dogs (14 CFR 382 §382.55). Typically, animal health certificates are not necessary for travel within the continental US when the service animal/service dog travels in the cabin. Health certificates are usually required when an animal travels in the baggage compartment, to ensure that the animal can withstand the temperature changes and other stresses that might occur during shipping. A health certificate also provides information to airline personnel during the times the animal is not under the supervision of its handler (during loading, layovers, etc.).

The ACAA does not apply to service animals-in-training, and it does not apply to passengers who do not have disabilities. Some state and local laws, and individual carrier policies, do permit access by service animals-in-training and their handlers who might not have disabilities.

It is the responsibility of the person with the disability (handler) to ensure that his or her service animal/service dog can tolerate any inspection it, like other passengers, must undergo for security purposes. This might include search of equipment, manual "pat downs," and use of a wand-type metal detector. The animal should not display any behavior that interferes with the process (aggression, pulling away, initiating unwanted contact with the examiner, etc.). Security searches may be made of any mobility aid or assistive device, which, in the judgment of security personnel, might conceal a weapon or other prohibited item. (14 CFR 382 §382.49)

Stewardship (care and behavior management) of the service animal/service dog is also the handler's responsibility. A carrier is not required to delay a flight because a service animal/service dog has to off-board to relieve itself, and carrier or airport personnel are not obligated to take the service animal/service dog for a walk. For tips about air travel with a service animal/service dog, please refer to Alert 9:1, 98, "Traveling with a Service Dog."

Access and Seating

People with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals/service dogs, must be allowed access to all areas that the general public (and ticket holders, if the person with a disability has a valid ticket) is welcomed (14 CFR 382 §382.23). Carriers may not refuse to provide transportation to qualified individuals with disabilities by limiting the number of such people who are permitted to travel on a given flight (14 CFR 382 §382.31(c)).

People with disabilities who have service animals/service dogs cannot be required to sit in specified areas, other than they may be excluded from exit row seats if their conditions prevent them from meeting the criteria necessary in an emergency, or if the service animal/service dogs would block the exit row. Carriers that provide advance seat assignments will provide accessible seating to people with disabilities who request it in one of the following ways:

  1. The carrier may "block" an adequate number of seats and not assign them to passengers not needing accommodations until 24 hours before the scheduled departure of the flight. These seats will be assigned to passengers with disabilities who request such accommodations. If the request for an accommodation is made less than 24 hours prior to the departure, the carrier will meet the request to the extent possible, but is not required to reassign a seat already assigned to another passenger.
  2. The carrier may designate "priority seats" for individuals with disabilities. All passengers assigned to these seats (other than people with disabilities who require this accommodation) will be notified that they are subject to seat reassignment if that seat is necessary to accommodate a person with a disability. These seats will be assigned to passengers with disabilities who request them and check in at least one hour before the scheduled departure of the flight. If all designated priority seats that would have accommodated the individual have been assigned to other passengers, the carrier will reassign the seats of the other passengers (except those that require the seating as a disability-related accommodation) as needed to provide the requested accommodation. If the passenger with the disability does not check in at least one hour before the scheduled departure of the flight, the carrier shall meet the individual's request to the extent practicable, but is not required to reassign a seat assigned to another passenger in order to do so. (14 CFR 382 §382.382.38)

Guidance Concerning Service Animals/Service Dogs in Air Transportation

The following is technical assistance issued by the DOT as it appeared in the Federal Register, Vol. 61, No. 213, Friday, November 1, 1996, pages 56422-5. For more information about these guidelines, contact the office of Aviation Consumer Protection, Washington, DC at (202) 366-2220.

The DOT receives frequent questions about the transportation of service animals by airlines. On July 26, 1996, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued Americans with Disabilities Act guidance concerning the access of service animals to places of public accommodation. The following guidance is based on the DOJ issuance, with adaptations to the context of air transportation and answers to questions the Department has been asked.

The Department of Transportation's rules protect the rights of air travelers with disabilities and require air carriers to permit passengers to fly with their service animals. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) rules say the following:

  • Carriers shall permit dogs and other service animals used by individuals with disabilities to accompany the person on a flight.
  • Carriers shall accept as evidence that an animal is a service animal identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses or markings on harnesses, tags or the credible verbal assurances of the qualified individual with disabilities using the animal.
  • Carriers shall permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual with disabilities in any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remainunobstructed in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation. (14 CFR 382.55(a).
  • If a service animal cannot be accommodated at the seat location of the qualified individual with disabilities whom the animal is accompanying
  • ...the carrier shall offer the passenger the opportunity to move with the animal to a seat location, if present on the aircraft, where the animal can be accommodated, as an alternative to requiring that the animal travel with checked baggage (14 CFR 382.37(c)).

The questions and answers below are intended to help carriers and passengers understand how to respond to service animal/service dog issues.

  1. What is a service animal/service dog?

    Under the ACAA, a service animal is any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If the animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal/service dog regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
  2. What work do service animals/service dogs perform?

    Service animals/service dogs perform some of the tasks and functions that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or her self. Guide dogs that help blind individuals are the type of service animal/service dog most people are familiar with. But there are service animals/service dogs that assist persons with other types of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

             - Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
             - Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
             - Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
             - An animal that does not perform identifiable tasks or functions for an individual with a disability is probably not a service animal/service dog. However, it is not essential that the animal perform the functions for the individual while he or she is traveling on the aircraft. The functions can be ones that the animal performs for the individual at his or her destination.
  3. What must an airline do when an individual with a disability using a service animal/service dog seeks to travel?

    The service animal/service dog must be permitted to accompany the passenger with a disability on the flight. The animal must be allowed to accompany the individual in the seat the individual uses, except where the animal would obstruct an aisle or other area required by Federal Aviation Administration safety rules to remain unobstructed for emergency evacuation purposes. Service animals/service dogs are typically trained to curl up under seats, which should reduce the likelihood of such an obstruction.

    If such an obstruction would occur, the animal (and passenger, if possible) should be relocated to some other place in the cabin that will accommodate the animal without causing such an obstruction, then the animal is not permitted to travel in the cabin.

    To accommodate service animals/service dogs, airlines are not required to ask other passengers to relinquish space that they would normally use. For example, the passenger sitting next to an individual traveling with a service animal/service dog would not need to allow the space under the seat in front of him or her to be used to accommodate the animal.
  4. Is a service animal/service dog a pet?

    A service animal/service dog is not a pet. A service animal/service dog is a working animal that performs important functions for an individual with a disability. The individual with a disability has been trained in the use of the service animal/service dog and is responsible for all handling of the animal. Consequently, carrier personnel and other passengers should not attempt to pet, play with, direct, or in any way distract service animals/service dogs.

    It is also important to realize that a pet is not a service animal/service dog. Many people enjoy the companionship of animals. But this relationship between an individual and an animal, standing alone, is not sufficient to cause an animal to be regarded as a service animal/service dog.
  5. How do the requirements of the ACAA rule concerning service animals/service dogs relate to an airline's rules about carrying pets?

    Airlines may have whatever policy they choose concerning pets, consistent with US Department of Agriculture animal welfare rules. For example, they can refuse to carry any pets. They can carry pets only in containers stowed in the cargo compartment. They can allow small pets in carriers that fit under the seat. Since service animals/service dogs are not pets, the ACAA requires airlines to modify their pets policies to allow service animals/service dogs to accompany persons with a disability in the cabin. When an animal is determined by the airline not to be a service animal/service dog, then the airline would apply to the animal the same policy that applies to pets.

    If any situation in which the airline determines that an animal is not a service animal/service dog, the airline must continue to give the passenger the opportunity to travel without having the service animal/service dog in the cabin. It is not appropriate to deny transportation to a passenger because the passenger's animal is determined not to be a service animal/service dog.
  6. How can I tell if an animal really is a service animal/service dog and not just a pet?

    Some, but not all service animals/service dogs wear special collars or harnesses. For example, guide dogs used by persons with vision impairments typically wear harnesses that enhance their ability to guide the visually impaired person. Some, but not all service animals/service dogs are licensed and certified and have identification papers.

    If airline employees are not certain that an animal is a service animal/service dog, they may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal/service dog required because of a disability. However, an individual who is planning to travel by air is not necessarily going to be carrying around documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, while such documentation may be requested as a means of verifying that the animal is a service animal/service dog, it generally may not be required as a condition of permitting an individual to travel with his or her service animal/service dog. (See Question 9 for a situation in which documentation may be required.) Likewise, while a number of states have programs to certify service animals/service dogs, airline employees may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal/service dog to accompany the person with a disability.
  7. What are "credible" verbal assurances that an animal is a service animal/service dog?

    In the absence of documentation or other obvious evidence that an animal is a service animal/service dog, the only information available to airline employees about the animal may be what a passenger says about his or her disability and the use of the animal. Airline employees may exercise their judgment concerning whether the passenger's statements about the training and functions of the animal make it reasonable to think that the animal is a service animal/service dog.

    The factors discussed in this guidance (e.g., the nature of the individual's disability, the training the animal is said to have received, its ability to behave properly in public places, the functions it is said to perform for the individual) can be used in evaluating the credibility of the passenger's statements. An airline complaints resolution official (CRO), whom the Department's ACAA rules require to be available at each airport that the airline serves, is a resource that passengers and airline employees can use to resolve difficult cases.
  8. What about unusual or multiple animals?

    Most people are familiar with the use of dogs as service animals. On some occasions, however, individuals may ask to be accompanied in an aircraft cabin by other kinds of animals. For example, in a few cases, monkeys have been trained to provide services to persons with severe mobility impairments. There have been cases of passengers requesting to be accompanied by reptiles or rodents. In addition, some passengers have asked to travel with more than one animal at a time.

    In evaluating these situations, airline employees should keep in mind some of the important characteristics of service animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific functions for an individual with at disability, and they are trained to behave properly in public places. Service animals are generally trained to work on a one-to-one basis with an individual with a disability. Airline employees may inquire about these matters and may use their judgment about whether, in light of these factors, a particular animal is a service animal, as distinct from a pet that a passenger wants to bring on board.
  9. How should airline employees respond to a claim that being accompanied by an animal is necessary for the psychological well-being of an individual with a mental or psychological disability?

    Many people receive emotional support from being near an animal. The assertion of a passenger that an animal remaining in his or her company is a needed accommodation to a disability, however, may often be difficult to verify or to distinguish from the situation of any person who is fond of a pet. In addition, the animal may not, in such a situation, perform any visible function. For these reasons, it is reasonable for airline employees to request appropriate documentation of the individual's disability and the medical or therapeutic necessity of the passenger's traveling with the animal. Moreover, the animal, like any service animal/service dog, must be trained to behave properly in a public setting.
  10. What about service animals/service dogs that are not accompanying a passenger with a disability?

    Sometimes, an animal that is trained to work with people with disabilities may travel by air but not be accompanied by an individual with a disability for whom the animal performs service animal/service dog functions. For example, a non-disabled handler may transport a "therapy dog" to a location, such as a rehabilitation center, where it will perform services for individuals with physical or mental disabilities.

    The Department's Air Carrier Access Act regulation intended to assist passengers with disabilities by ensuring that they can travel with the service animals/service dogs that perform the functions for them. When a service animal/service dog is not accompanying a passenger with a disability, the rule's rationale for permitting the animal to travel in the cabin does not apply. While the animal may be traveling to a location where it will perform valuable services to other people, it would be subject to the airline's general policies with respect to the carriage of animals.
  11. What if an animal acts out of control?

    Service animals/service dogs are trained to behave properly in public settings. For example, a properly trained service animal/service dog will remain at its owner's feet. It does not run freely around an aircraft or airport gate area, bark or growl repeatedly at other persons on the aircraft, bite or jump on people, or urinate or defecate in the cabin or gate area. An animal that engages in such disruptive behavior shows that it has not been successfully trained to function as a service animal/service dog in public settings. Therefore, airlines are not required to treat it as service animal/service dog, even if the animal is one that performs an assistive function for a passenger with a disability, However, airline personnel should consider available means of mitigating the effect of an animal's behavior that are acceptable to the individual with a disability (e.g., muzzling a dog that barks frequently) that would permit the animal to travel in the cabin.

    While an airline is not required to permit an animal to travel in the cabin if it engages in disruptive behavior, or other behavior that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of persons on the aircraft, airline employees may not make assumptions about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually. Airline employees may inquire, however, about whether a particular animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting.
  12. Can airlines charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals/service dogs onto aircraft?

    No. The ACAA prohibits special charges, such as deposits or surcharges, for accommodations required to be made to passengers' disabilities. This is true even if such charges are routinely required to transport pets.

    However, an airline can charge passengers with disabilities if a service animal/service dog causes damage, so long as it is the regular practice of the airline to charge non-disabled passengers for the same types of damages. For example, the airline can charge passengers with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning seats damaged by a service animal/service dog if it is the airline's policy to charge when non-disabled passengers cause similar damage.
  13. Are airlines responsible for the animal while a person with a disability is on the aircraft?

    No. The care and supervision of a service animal/service dog is solely the responsibility of its owner. The individual with a disability has been trained in the use of the service animal/service dog and is responsible for all handling of the animal. The airline is not required to provide care or food or special facilities for the animal.

Discrimination Complaints

If you think you have been discriminated against because you have a disability (including because you have a service animal/service dog), you can file complaints with the following agencies.

  • The airline's Complaint Resolution Officer (CRO). Carriers are not obligated to respond to any complaint postmarked later than 45 days after the incident. Carriers must respond in writing within 30 days of receipt of the complaint.
    The US Department of Transportation-Aviation Consumer Protection, 400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 20590. (202) 366-2220.
  • The US Department of Justice, (800) 514-0301.
  • The agency, in the state where the incident occurred (or, if it occurred during a flight, where you boarded the flight) that enforces nondiscrimination laws. Often, this is the state's Human Rights Commission.
  • The Attorney General in the state where the discrimination occurred (or, if it occurred during a flight, where you boarded the flight).

You might have other legal recourse. To find out, consult a legal services provider familiar with the ACAA and nondiscrimination cases.


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